You never know what you may be asked to read on a reading comprehension test. The best methods of practicing for such a test include reading to gain exposure to the types of vocabulary, texts and questions you may encounter. You can take advantage of online practice test sites and online tutoring of reading comprehension methods, or you can purchase hard copy practice books that you can take with you anywhere.
Develop or learn a system to help you remember what you have read, such as the SQ3R system. SQ3R stands for "survey, question, read, recite and review." Survey the text looking for clues to its meaning in the form of captions or bold print subheadings before reading it. Formulate questions you want answers to after you survey, but before you read. Read attentively to find the answers to the questions you formulated. Pause periodically to recite mentally what you have read then make brief notes as a tool to remembering it. When completely finished, review the notes as you try to remember all that you read.
Work on improving your vocabulary. One of the main roadblocks to difficulties in comprehension is a poor grasp of the vocabulary used. If individual words become cumbersome and must be individually analyzed throughout a passage, then it is difficult to fully comprehend the passage. Try fun ways to increase your vocabulary, such as crossword puzzles and online word games. Instant word recognition allows you to focus on the passage as a whole.
Read a wider variety of genres, texts and difficulty levels. The brain seeks patterns to help it understand as it reads. When reading a difficult passage on a reading comprehension test, the brain decodes and understands the new material much faster if it has a point of reference for the new material. Read material you do not normally read and read passages that are challenging so that you increase the points of reference your brain holds for new material.
Summarize, highlight or underline as you practice for comprehension tests. Summarize the important information of each paragraph or section in one brief statement in the margins. Use highlighting and underlining sparingly on the important words, phrases and ideas in each passage. This focuses your thinking and memory. If allowed, such summary notes and highlighting will help on the actual test. If they are not permissible on the test, you have at least trained your brain to think in this way, so as you take the test, you automatically summarize and notice important information.
Find reading comprehension practice tests online in a variety of formats. Click on the test review or practice you wish to complete, then find the reading section. Take the practice test, which is automatically scored for you. Some sites offer an assessment of weak areas so that you know where to concentrate your practice. If you are preparing for a specific standardized test, such as the SAT, the official site for that test also often offers preparatory assistance.
Purchase a practice assessment book online or at your local bookstore. Buy a practice test book geared toward the standardized test you are preparing to take or a general test practice book if you are just looking to improve your comprehension skills overall. Look for a book that offers a way with which to assess your weak areas based on your incorrect answers. Some books also offer tips and methods to improve your comprehension skills.
Elizabeth Stover, an 18 year veteran teacher and author, has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Maryland with a minor in sociology/writing. Stover earned a masters degree in education curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas, Arlington and continues to work on a masters in Educational Leadership from University of North Texas. Stover was published by Creative Teaching Press with the books "Science Tub Topics" and "Math Tub Topics."